|Looking south from the Walnut Street Bridge, Philadelphia. This is a favorite site of mine to photograph because of the rightward sweep of the river, railroad tracks and highway.||Fire hydrant, Walt Whitman Center, Camden. I was waiting to usher for a Allen Ginsburg reading and combed the block looking for appropriately-phallic celebration of the day.||East side of the Wissahickon Creek, Philadelphia. A favorite place to walk and contemplate life.|
This is a style of photography I got into a few years ago. It’s appeal is simple: it takes little technical expertise and the process itself is limited in time. Everything boils down to basic form: a successful photo depends on setting up a good shot and then bringing it’s potential out in the burnishing.
HOW IT’S DONE:
Anyone who used Polaroids as a kid will remember the wait. When the film comes out of the camera, it’s still black. Within a few minutes a ghost of the photo begins to appear, a image which is fleshed out in about ten minutes time. During this time, the photo is developing inside of it’s plastic casing. If you press hard on the plastic before the photo comes out, all sorts of effects can be achieved. Depending on the pressure and temperature, you can get colors to bend, scratches to streak across the photo, etc. If done well, the burnishing can take on the effect of brush strokes and create an impressionististic photograph.
This is not a burnished Polaroid of course. I took this with more traditional photographic equipment in the summer of 1991. I was on British Columbia’s Gabriola Island for the annual meeting of my employer, New Society Publishers, a meeting place which allowed for wonderful outdoor distractions. One was sea kyacking through the passes around the island.
What we didn’t know was that one particular channel served as the take-off strip for the island’s seaplanes. I was safely onboard a boat at the end of the pass when I saw the plane start out of the docks you see in the distance. Two workmates were leisurely paddling their way toward us when they heard the sound behind them. As Barbara relates, she knew if that plane didn’t get airborne in time she’d be goners. Luckily it made it and so did they…
Last updated January 28, 1997
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